Shaun Escoffery is enjoying 10 days off from the London production of The Lion King. It’s quite a break: performing the lead role of Mufasa for the past 12 years has entailed eight shows a week over six days, with only Mondays off. That’s hard work in anybody’s language. So he’s been taking the chance to put his feet up, right? Wrong.
He’s only gone and made another album. Strong Enough, which Decca will release on April 3, was recorded – during office hours – with producer Troy Miller [Gregory Porter, Amy Winehouse] and Peter Vetesse [Pet Shop Boys, Cher]. Shaun will support it with live dates – see elsewhere this issue – for which he’s been hard at it in rehearsal. He’s dashing about so much that even this cover interview becomes a phoner, so as to meet our deadlines as well as his. And the thing is, he doesn’t really have to make it this hard for himself. Being a fixture in Lion King allows Shaun either to make an album, or not. That he chooses to – and with a major label this time – is really only because he wants to.
“It’s more to do with maturity now,” he reflects, good naturedly, on the subject. “I’m older and with that you get a clearer perspective on things… ”
“We got all the songs,” says Willie Jones, in a deep southern drawl on the phone from LA where the Louisiana native now lives. “We about 90% done.”
He’s talking about his long-in-the-works, still-untitled first album. He recently had to give up his slot as the opener for Kansas singer Logan Mize’s tour to finish it.
“I was trying to juggle too many things,” he explains. “That was my first big tour, and I was the opening act, so I hate to cancel it… but I had to, for my peace.”
He talks about stepping off the tour with some regret, but he’s been in the business for long enough to know what’s necessary and what isn’t. He’s keen on practising self-awareness.
“It’s something that so many artists do – sacrifice themselves to make other people happy – and I’ve seen it ruin some of my favourite artists,” he says.
“So I try to learn from those who have come before me. I try to listen to my body. I had to really be selfish and just do some self-care.”
Bob Marley would have been 75 years old on February 6 and his birthday celebrations are set to continue throughout 2020.
“The Marley75 celebrations will encompass all things music, fashion, art, photography, technology, sport and film, providing fans with unprecedented access to archives from the legendary artist’s estate in new, thoughtful and innovative ways,” read the announcement on Reggaeville. “Together with YouTube, new and exciting content is set to be released over the course of the year.”
Bob’s son Ziggy wasn’t too sure of all the details when I spoke to him recently, but he’s rightfully proud of the series of film interviews he’s began posting on YouTube under the banner of LEGACY: 75 Years A Legend. The official description tells of “a year-long audio and visual odyssey, featuring 12 newly crafted stories exploring Marley’s impact today” – mini-documentaries that aim to provide further insight into the father “outside of who I know,” to quote Ziggy’s own words.
“They’re with people who weren’t in the Marley documentary, and who knew my father differently… ”
It would be easy to get the wrong impression of Yazmin Lacey. For instance, her arrival on most people’s radar, as a result of her involvement with Gilles Peterson’s UK Bubblers project, might, for some, have marked her out as a champion of the Hoxton beardy-stroking craft beer crew. Moreover, her own distinctive sound, mostly a very cool blend of Badu-ish soul, neo-soul and jazz, tends to place her on the edgier side of current UK-based black music. In reality, though, Yazmin is incredibly feet-on-the-ground about her achievements thus far. Instead of quoting a list of influences to fit the aforesaid image, she professes to have grown up on mainstream American vocal groups like SWV and Brownstone, and maintains that British acts such as Beverley Knight, Mica Paris, Sade and Omar meant most to her whenever she dreamed of following in anyone’s footsteps. Not that she did much of that, as it goes: Yazmin also insists that she never seriously considered music as a career until relatively recently, preferring to follow up on her Drama & Education Studies degree at Leicester University with charity-based youth work and something resembling real life.
“It’s not that I don’t love music – I do – but there are lots of things that inspired me before I got to that… ”